Two crew members had returned to work following maternity leave but were still breastfeeding. They requested that their rotas be limited to a maximum of eight hours to avoid the risk of getting mastitis, of which they had medical evidence in support. Their request was refused. Easyjet argued they couldn’t accommodate this on the basis of the need to avoid delays and cancellations to flights, which was a proportionate means of achieving those aims.
The tribunal held that this amounted to indirect discrimination on the basis that the possibility of having to work more than eight hours disadvantaged women and Easyjet had not managed to objectively justify this.
They failed to produce good enough evidence of the difficulties it claimed the modified rosters would cause.
Although women do not have a statutory right to take time off for breastfeeding, they are protected from indirectly discriminated against because of their sex. There is also the right to paid suspension, and to be offered suitable alternative work. EasyJet’s failures in respect of these two employees extended beyond its roster practices, highlighting the care that employers must exercise when dealing with breastfeeding mothers.